Deaglán de Bréadún
You are all familiar with the expression, “I hadn’t got time to bless myself”. This week, your humble scribe has been in Donegal covering the MacGill Summer School and hasn’t had time to blog.
Last year’s school was devoted to the banking and economic crisis and the contributors and lecturers dominated the news media for the week. This year, the official subject is political reform but the economic crisis keeps rearing its head.
The two topics are interrelated. The economic crisis was probably inevitable but there was a severe lack of an early-warning system. There were some prophets of doom all right but they didn’t get any attention.
Anyone with a brain in his or her head knew that the rise in house prices could not continue but there was very little thought given to when and how the bubble would burst.
Although there was a big homegrown contribution to the crisis, it is of course international in scale. Hardly anybody anywhere in an official or governmental position saw what was coming: only a few voices in the academic world.
It’s funny how the type of analysis that was prevalent way back in my student days and wasn’t taken very seriously by many people then has suddenly come back into vogue and seems to carry more credibility.
Our economic system is characterised by repeated boom-and-bust crises. For some readers this will be their first one, although I am sure a good many remember the 1980s.
Being a little longer in the tooth, the present writer remembers the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, brought on by the conflict in the Middle East: the Yom Kippur War.
That was a rotten time when looking for a job was a nightmare and I can still see the “PFO” (Please Feck Off) letters piling halfway to the ceiling. My heart goes out to the young generation nowadays who are striving to obtain employment.
There was much criticism of the Celtic Tiger phenomenon but one of the great things about it was that emigration more or less ended and we even had immigration, incredible to relate. The place seemed to be awash with glamorous East European ladies with Ph.D.’s in agricultural production.
Now we read that emigration is back. My reaction at one time would have been deep sorrow and despair but, given the international nature of the crisis, I am relieved that there is work for people somewhere, even if it is outside the country.
One of the good things about a boom and bust system is that the current bust should be followed by another boom. Unless of course the prophets of doom are right and we are in for a “double-dip recession”. That hardly bears thinking about.